- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality and traits
- 3 Physical description
- 4 Skills and abilities
- 5 Equipment
- 6 Relationships
- 7 Appearances
- 8 Gallery
- 9 Etymology and translations
- 10 Behind the scenes
- 11 Trivia
- 12 References
- 13 Navigation
Born Kaz Rietveld, he was raised on a farm near Lij with his father and older brother Jordie Rietveld. When Kaz was nine, their father died in a plough accident. Jordie sold the farm and took Kaz to Ketterdam, where he intended for Kaz to attend school. Several days after their arrival in the city, Kaz and Jordie went to the East Stave to watch street magicians and met a boy named Filip selling wind-up dogs. Filip introduced Jordie to a minor mercher called Jakob Hertzoon, who employed them as runners while Kaz remained at Hertzoon's coffeehouse, practicing magic tricks. Kaz also met Hertzoon's wife Margit, who served them hutspot, and their daughter Saskia, who gave him her red ribbon.
Hertzoon encouraged the boys to invest in sugar stocks, resulting in a large payout. A few days later, he had Jordie invest heavily in the jurda crop, using all of the funds from the sale of their father's farm. Kaz and Jordie spent the next week in comfort, but when it was time to reconvene at the coffeehouse, they found it empty. They realized that Jakob Hertzoon and his "family" had been running a con, taking all their money and leaving them penniless. The boys were evicted from their boarding house and forced to sleep on the streets, coming into conflict with the stadwatch and the Razorgulls.
When the Queen's Lady Plague swept through the city, Jordie developed a fever from the firepox and Kaz followed two days later. Presumed dead, the brothers were ferried onto a sickboat to the Reaper's Barge at sea. Though Jordie had died, Kaz survived the firepox. Barely alive and too weak to swim on his own, Kaz used his brother's body as a float to swim back to Ketterdam's harbor, vowing to take vengeance on Hertzoon. The experience left Kaz unable to bear contact with another person's skin, and after a severe panic attack Kaz purchased a pair of gloves, never removing them except in private.
Kaz adopted the surname Brekker, cutting ties with the Rietveld identity and remaking himself as a ruthless fighter. He worked at gambling dens on East Stave, learned to steal, was sent to jail twice, was courted by numerous gangs in the Barrel, and earned the nickname "Dirtyhands". He was soon banned from playing in any gambling hall on the Stave thanks to his gift for cards. He saw Jakob Hertzoon for the first time since the con, only to learn that Hertzoon was really Pekka Rollins, leader of the Dime Lions. The next day, Kaz joined the Dregs.
He began as a grunt, but quickly rose through the ranks, becoming an official member at age twelve and a lieutenant several years later, known for his precise ruthlessness as Dirtyhands. At age fourteen, Kaz was caught when the stadwatch rousted a gambling hall, resulting in his sixth and final arrest. While working at the spring prize fights for the gang, Kaz met Imogen and developed a crush on her, though he was unable to overcome his touch aversion and pursue a relationship. The same year, Kaz put together a crew to rob the bank that had helped Hertzoon con him and Jordie, but broke his leg dropping down from the bank rooftop.
The Dregs' power and reputation grew thanks to Kaz. He helped the Crow Club, one of the main sources of income for the Dregs, grow profitably, with Kaz as the floor boss for more than two years. Fifth Harbor had been useless and abandoned by the city before Kaz developed it, mortgaging the Crow Club to provide the funds. Thanks to the success of Fifth Harbor, the Dregs became a major gang in Ketterdam. Kaz recruited numerous young people into the gang, members who were loyal to him and viewed him as the true leader of the Dregs rather than Per Haskell.
Six of Crows
Kaz meets the Black Tips at the Exchange for a parley between their gangs. He reveals a member of the Dregs, Big Bolliger, to be a double agent and has him shot and left to bleed out slowly to his death for his betrayal. Kaz successfully destroys the Black Tips by threatening to slowly burn alive Geel's innocent girlfriend Elise - due to Kaz's reputation as Dirtyhands, Geels believes Kaz and backs off. Afterwards, the Dregs celebrate their victory and Kaz leaves to wander the streets, but is kidnapped by Jan Van Eck, an upstanding mercher, who makes an offer. The offer suggests that if Kaz and his crew successfully complete an impossible heist, he will receive thirty million kruge: Break into the Ice Court of Fjerda and rescue Bo Yul-Bayur. Kaz, unable to resist the offer of thirty million kruge, accepts, gathering a team. His crew consists of Inej Ghafa (his Wraith and spy), Nina Zenik (a Heartrender), Jesper Fahey (a sharpshooter and loyal member of the Dregs - also a Fabrikator), Wylan Van Eck (demo and hostage), Matthias Helvar (Fjerdan and former drüskelle), and, of course, himself.
After rescuing Matthias from Hellgate prison, where he was previously held, the crew makes their way to the Ice Court. The journey is long and difficult, involving a great deal of planning and a few dangerous situations, yet finally, the crew arrives at the Ice Court. Each member has their own job, and eventually, the group discovers the man, Bo Yul-Bayur, has died. They had intended to kidnap him because he was the creator of jurda parem, but instead take his son, Kuwei Yul-Bo, only to discover that the entire heist was a trick set up by Jan Van Eck, Wylan's father. Van Eck had set up the quest in the first place to help expand his trading empire by selling and manufacturing more jurda parem.
Kaz manages to anticipate something like this and has swapped Wylan and Kuwei without Van Eck noticing. He then reveals this to Van Eck after Van Eck reveals that he had tricked Kaz. Kaz insists that if Van Eck wants Kuwei, he will need to give up the thirty million kruge. Van Eck, however, notices the way Kaz looked at Inej and instead kidnaps Inej herself, insisting that Kaz will be able to get his Wraith back if he gave up Kuwei.
Kaz plays the role of a card dealer at Club Cumulus to occupy lawyer Cornelis Smeet before breaking into his house with Wylan. Matthias rows them back to Black Veil Island and the Crows discuss their plan to steal back Inej and their money from Van Eck. Nina, Matthias, and Kuwei try to discuss Kuwei's future, but Kaz makes it clear that he is in charge of Kuwei's fate - and that of everyone.
When Jesper and Wylan go to meet with Colm Fahey at the university, Kaz and Matthias follow them, anticipating a trap. Indeed, Jesper, Wylan, and Colm are ambushed, and everyone runs back to Black Veil. Kaz helps Jesper construct a lie to his father to explain his situation in Ketterdam, using some of Kaz's own experience being swindled. Kaz begins to form a plan to use Colm in his scheme to discredit Van Eck, to Jesper's frustration, but reveals no details to his crew and reserves a room at the Geldrenner Hotel for Colm.
Kaz writes a ransom note to Van Eck requesting a hostage exchange between his pregnant wife, Alys Van Eck, and Inej, then has the Crows set up several distractions, anticipating a messy response from Van Eck. As they complete the exchange, Van Eck calls in the stadwatch, claiming Kaz has stolen his son as well. Kaz quickly unlocks Inej's shackles and the two jump off Goedmedbridge, land on a flower boat where they don Mister Crimson disguises, and reemerge unrecognizable in the chaos. However, an explosion at the House of the White Rose leads him and Inej to quickly leave West Stave. Kaz hides Inej at a safehouse in the warehouse district, investigates Van Eck's sugar silos, then brings Inej to Black Veil.
Kaz explains his plan to discredit Van Eck by destroying the sugar in his silos and using the stock market to earn money from the subsequent rise in sugar prices. Nina, backed by Inej, forces Kaz to include smuggling Ketterdam's Grisha safely to Ravka in his plan. At night, Inej accompanies Kaz into the city. First, Kaz intercepts his boss Per Haskell and reassures him of their actions and future money. Then, they climb the Church of Barter to do reconnaissance on Van Eck's house. On the way back, Inej confesses she was uncertain Kaz would rescue her from Van Eck, and he admits that he would care for her even if she was no longer his spy, the Wraith.
Kaz's plan goes wrong, and the group reconvenes with Jesper's father. Their plight seems hopeless, as the entire city is out looking for them, and even Kaz's gang, the Dregs, have turned on them. Kaz decides that he will stage an auction with Kuwei Yul-Bo as the "prize", in the hope of using the money to fund his team's own plans for the future. He also has a scene where he reveals his true feelings for Inej - almost kissing her neck before his panic takes hold. He then reveals that he has paid off her indenture himself, selling every asset he owns to set her free. Kaz breaks into the Dregs' stronghold and stages an impromptu single-handed coup, fighting off at least ten of the members loyal to Per Haskell, and overthrowing the old man. Then he sets up Colm Fahey as "Johannus Rietveld", an alias using his and Jordie's old name, to swindle money from the Merchant Council and Jan Van Eck. He meets with the Grisha Triumvirate and strikes a deal with Sturmhond the privateer, on behalf of the Ravkan crown. At the auction, it looks like everything is going south - the Ravkans can't afford the price that is being offered for Kuwei, and the Council of Tides shows up to declare the auction a sham. It also seems that Kaz has been betrayed by Wylan Van Eck, who was captured by his own father just before the auction. However, Kaz has been two or three steps ahead the whole time and he slowly reveals his plot to discredit Jan Van Eck and steal the thirty million kruge that Van Eck owes. He later reveals that he siphoned thirty million kruge of the council's money into the Dregs' accounts, to be divided among his team. He also uses some of his share to buy Inej a ship and finally, he reveals her parents disembarking from a ship that he asked Sturmhond to send looking for them.
Rule of Wolves
Nikolai Lantsov pens a message to Kaz, asking for his help in stealing the titanium from Rentveer to help in Ravka's war against Fjerda. Kaz disguises himself as an old man and follows Zoya Nazyalensky and Nikolai as they walk to the Crow Club, eavesdropping on their conversation about him. Kaz then reveals himself and leads them beneath the canals. He makes Rentveer sound impossible to break into and questions why he should help Nikolai and Zoya, but listens when Nikolai offers safety for Inej.
The three of them walk to the Van Eck mansion, where they meet Jesper Fahey and Wylan Van Eck. Kaz recruits them for the job and goes over his plan. They all travel to the bay, where the Suli detain them, but Kaz expects it and they learn of a tunnel into Rentveer. Kaz picks the locks into the central yard and keeps watch while Nikolai steals the titanium and replaces it with aluminum. However, they run out of time, and Nikolai has to release his demon to disengage the cable and avoid detection. Afterwards, Nikolai gives Kaz his gift for the Wraith and they depart.
Personality and traits
Kaz is cold-hearted, ruthless, and well-known for being willing to do any job, no matter the danger or violence involved, so as long as it will make him a good deal of money. This trait and his various egregious actions have earned him the nickname "Dirtyhands", a reputation he draws upon to intimidate his opponents. Kaz is manipulative and conniving and makes sure to always be the person in control of the situation. For this reason, he's quick-witted and always has a trick up his sleeve. He discourages trust and is willing to exploit almost anyone for his own gain. Despite his ruthless nature he is not entirely without morals. He genuinely cares about his friends and their wellbeing. He is also against the idea of harming of child and admits he never would.
Kaz usually appears calm and collected, rarely allowing his emotions or true thoughts to show. However, he holds a penchant for wrathful revenge, particularly when he is wronged or Inej is hurt. He vowed to avenge his deceased brother and lives by the motto "brick by brick" to take down his enemies. Kaz turned the tragedy and trauma of his childhood into a fearsome reputation, and he actively encourages rumors about his ruthlessness and lack of humanity.
He has extreme difficulty expressing his emotions, even to those close to him, thanks to his PTSD. It takes him a great deal of time and effort to realize and admit his genuine feelings for Inej. Kaz struggles to come to terms with being both Dirtyhands, who can do what needs to be done, and Kaz Rietveld, who can love Inej.
Kaz also suffers from haphephobia, the fear of being touched or touching others. This developed from his traumatic experiences as a child, when he was thought to be dead and dumped with hundreds of dead plague victims. Kaz was forced to swim to shore, using his deceased brother as a float to keep him from drowning. He suffers from PTSD involving vivid flashbacks whenever he makes skin-to-skin contact with anyone else. This severe phobia also comes up when he’s in small spaces with other people: in Six of Crows, when Kaz had to go inside of a prison wagon to infiltrate the Ice Court, he fainted from being forced to be in close proximity with so many other people. Kaz wears gloves all the time to try and overcome this condition and shows to be slowly winning out at the end of Crooked Kingdom where he’s able to hold Inej’s hand and kisses her neck.
Kaz has pale skin and dark hair trimmed short on the sides. According to Inej, his eyes are the color of bitter coffee or strong tea in sunlight. He has a sharp jawline, a narrow face, and a lean, muscular build. On his right arm, Kaz has two tattoos: the Dregs' crow and cup on his forearm, and on his bicep a black R for 'Rietveld', his original surname. His voice is a gravelly rasp, possibly due to the effects of the firepox he suffered as a child.
Kaz wears simple, dark suits tailored to fit him, and a black hat – the outfit of a Ketterdam merchant. He wears merchant clothing to mock respectable businessmen by looking like one of them, rather than wearing the bright flash preferred by most Barrel gang members. Due to his haphephobia, Kaz always wears black leather gloves with small slits in the fingers to allow for better card handling and lockpicking.
Kaz has a limp and uses a cane with a crow's head as its handle, which also doubles as a weapon. His limp is due to jumping off a roof of a bank at fourteen, breaking his right leg, an injury that never fully healed properly. The severity of his limp varies, depending on factors such as cold weather and stress. Genya Safin offered to heal his leg, but Kaz refused. When asked by Inej what Kaz's tell is in a fight, he claims that his opponents never look past his limp, giving Kaz the element of surprise on his side.
Skills and abilities
Kaz is skilled at lockpicking, card tricks, and sleight of hand. These abilities are so complex that Matthias often calls him demjin, meaning demon. He is privy to information of just about anyone and anything in the city, due to Inej's stealth abilities and his considerable influence over Ketterdam.
His sleight of hand skills has been shown many times through the series, one case being when he took a gun from Per Haskell, took the bullets out without his knowing, and gave it back in a matter of seconds.
Kaz is also known most prominently as the mastermind and leader of the Six of Crows crew. He devises the plan and directs the crew. His plans are often extremely complex, having many layers that even those participating do not know the entirety of the plan. Inej, Jesper, Nina, Wylan, and Mattias all follow his orders without question.
Kaz has outstanding intellect for his age and extraordinary memory, therefore being able to manage businesses such as the Crow Club and Fifth Harbor.
In combat, Kaz favors his crow's head cane, which he adeptly uses to shatter bones and bring down opponents. He is also comfortable with using knives and guns. When unarmed, he is still dangerous, capable of holding his own with his fists or using improvised objects as weapons.
Kaz is an exceptionally strong-willed individual, which he uses to his advantage. When he woke up among corpses, despite the trauma of the event he was still strong enough to swim back to land using his brother's corpse as a floatation device. Kaz is fully capable of taking a hit that he actually allows people he fights to hit him to show off. Kaz is even able to run long distances on his bad leg even when it is causing him nothing but pain.
Kaz uses a cane with a crow's head handle, due to a broken leg that failed to heal properly. The cane is lead-lined and Fabrikator-made to enhance the weight of its swing, allowing Kaz to use it as a lethal weapon. He also carries at least two knives, not including a small oyster shucking knife hidden in his coat sleeve.
Inej and Kaz worked together in the Dregs for nearly two years before the Ice Court job and are each the person that the other trusts most. After several near-death encounters, they gradually acknowledge their feelings for one another, inching closer and closer to a romantic relationship. However, the trauma of their pasts makes an intimate relationship extremely difficult. Still, Kaz makes particular effort to prevent harm coming to Inej and to do right by her, even if he believes she deserves better than him.
Kaz originally rescued Inej from Tante Heleen's Menagerie, transferring her indenture to the Dregs instead. He gives her knives and teaches her to fight and pick locks, and also gives her the name "Wraith". Kaz quickly grows to trust Inej more than anyone else; even willingly removing his gloves in her presence. Kaz slowly realizes his romantic feelings for Inej but tries to suppress them, viewing them as a weakness or a liability for both himself and Inej. Inej is also the one to pull Kaz out of his panic attacks. When Kaz almost drowns escaping the Ice Court, he realizes he needs to tell Inej his feelings; however, Inej only wants a relationship with Kaz if he can face the demons of his past and be honest with himself and her.
Kaz often tries to convince himself, Inej, and everyone else that his interest in Inej is purely economical, which upsets both him and Inej. After rescuing her from Van Eck, Kaz confesses that he would still come for Inej if she couldn't be the Wraith anymore, finally admitting she is more to him than an investment. Whenever Inej is injured, Kaz becomes irrational and fears for her safety, and tries to take precautions to protect her.
Before Inej departs Ketterdam, Kaz removes his gloves in public and successfully holds her hand for an extended period of time. He also reveals to her that he bought her a ship to hunt slavers and also negotiated with King Nikolai Lantsov to find her parents and bring them to Ketterdam. Beside herself with joy, Inej invites Kaz to come to meet them with her. He then asks her to check if his tie is straight before going to see them.
After Inej, Jesper is the second closest person to Kaz. Kaz shares with Jesper more details about his schemes than he does with most members of the Dregs (although not as much as he tells Inej and never the full details). However, Kaz's trust is shattered when he learns Jesper's indiscretion led to Pekka Rollins ambushing them at the harbor. As punishment, Kaz hides key details of his plan, including disguising Wylan as Kuwei, from the sharpshooter. Jesper spends most of Crooked Kingdom trying to get back into Kaz's good graces, even sacrificing his prized revolvers on a job, but Kaz continues to treat him callously.
Jesper also has a strong attraction to Kaz initially, longs for Kaz to trust him more, and is jealous of Inej's position in Kaz's close confidence. However, Kaz never reciprocates these feelings. Kaz comes to regard Jesper as a brother, even calling him by the name of his dead brother, Jordie. Jesper's recklessness and optimism remind Kaz of Jordie, and Kaz does not want to lose Jesper too.
Jesper is often upset with Kaz's callous treatment of others, such as Wylan and Jesper's father, occasionally leading to physical altercations between the two. Jesper is usually unafraid to question Kaz's judgment and plans, though Kaz knows Jesper will defer to him in the end.
After not speaking to Jesper for three weeks following the auction of Kuwei Yul-Bo, Kaz tells Inej that Jesper is missed around the Slat, implying that Kaz misses Jesper.
Etymology and translations
- Kaz took his own surname, Brekker, from a piece of machinery in the Ketterdam harbor. "Brekker" is similar to breker, which means "breaker" in Dutch (the language Kerch is based on).
- "Kaz" means "a flaw", "an imperfection", or "a defect" in both Slovak and Czech.
- "Kaz" also means "a goose" in Turkish.
- "Kaz" sounds similar to "kaas" which means "cheese" in Dutch (the language Kerch is based on). While this has no relevance to the story, it is a popular topic of memes in the fandom.
Behind the scenes
- Leigh has stated that Kaz thinks that “trans women are women" and by extension, supports LGBTQ+.
- Kaz has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of his traumatic experiences after Jordie died, which is shown through his constant flashbacks when undergoing contact with human flesh. This was also confirmed in a Q&A shown in the back of some copies of Crooked Kingdom.
- Kaz's astrological sign is Capricorn.
- According to Leigh Bardugo, Kaz is a Slytherin.
|Main Characters||Kaz Brekker • Inej Ghafa • Jesper Fahey • Nina Zenik • Matthias Helvar • Wylan Van Eck • Kuwei Yul-Bo • Jan Van Eck • Pekka Rollins|
|Minor Characters||Joost • Anya • Emil Retvenko • Councilman Hoede • Geels • Bo Yul-Bayur • Per Haskell • Tante Heleen • Jordie Rietveld • Specht • Rotty • Jarl Brum • Cornelis Smeet • Adem Bajan • Colm Fahey • Aditi Hilli • Alys Van Eck • Marya Hendriks • Zoya Nazyalensky • Sturmhond • Genya Safin • Dunyasha Lazareva • Anika • Pim • Keeg • Roeder • Karl Dryden • Jellen Radmakker|
|Locations||Ketterdam • The Barrel • Hellgate • Ice Court • Djerholm • Black Veil Island • Kerch • Fjerda • Ravka • Novyi Zem • Shu Han • Wandering Isle|
|Groups||The Dregs • Dime Lions • Black Tips • Stadwatch • Grisha • Drüskelle • The Menagerie • House of the White Rose • Merchant Council • Council of Tides • Khergud|
|Events||Hringkälla • Hellshow • Queen's Lady Plague • Komedie Brute|
|Miscellaneous||Jurda • Jurda parem • Kefta • Indenture • Djel • Ghezen|